As I write this, the lives of potentially billions of people have been altered in one way or another. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an untold amount of changes – both big and small – not to mention tragic. To be sure, this is a crisis on a global scale.
But this isn’t the only event that can disrupt our lives. True, most may not be this widespread. Yet, for those affected, it can seem that way.
It got me thinking about the role web designers and developers can play in times like these. Whether it’s a pandemic, a natural disaster or some other unforeseen challenge, the web is often a great source of information.
It has the potential to bring together communities of all sizes – and quickly. This can literally be the difference in whether someone is safe or in danger. Or simply knowing what resources are available to them during a difficult time.
So, how do we help with all of this? Let’s take a look at some ways web professionals can pitch in.
Help Clients Spread the Word
A crisis can really wreak havoc on all sorts of different businesses. In the case of COVID-19, everything from mom and pop restaurants to massive sporting leagues have been temporarily shuttered.
If you work with a business that has been impacted, you might start by reaching out. Ask how they’re doing and find out if there’s anything you can do with regards to their website. For some clients, they may not necessarily be thinking of their site and how it can help them reach customers.
It could be as simple as writing up a blog post that explains their situation – such as a closure or change in operating hours. Or, if things are really minute-by-minute, adding a social media feed to their home page could help keep visitors up to date in real-time.
Obviously, we all have bills to pay. But if you’re able, offering free or discounted service for this task would be greatly appreciated.
Build a Community
Sometimes, people need a rallying point and a place to communicate. That’s why an affected town or neighborhood could really benefit from an online hub.
This type of site is actually fairly easy to set up, what with WordPress plugins like BuddyPress and bbPress available for free. And it could connect people who may otherwise not be able to get out to an in-person meeting.
Providing this type of community service can be a real lifesaver for some. Those who need to find resources, a helping hand, or someone to listen will have a home on the web.
This is an area where your technical expertise can make a real difference in the lives of those around you.
If you’re a web designer with even a little bit of experience in eCommerce, you can play a big part in helping raise funds for a good cause.
Crowdfunding is wildly popular and is often put to good use when someone is in need. But going with one of the big-name funding sites isn’t always the best option. It’s then that you can step in and get to work.
This may be a matter of adding a shopping cart to an existing website. Or, perhaps it entails building a landing page that encourages donations and tracks progress. Beyond that, you may be of some assistance for setting up a payment gateway account as well.
Regardless, you can create something both beautiful and functional that brings in much-needed funds.
Become a Citizen Journalist
So, this one isn’t necessarily an immediate way to pitch in and help others. But it could still be a very worthwhile endeavor.
In situations like a natural disaster, keeping an online archive of sorts can provide a lasting public record. And it doesn’t need to be a complex project. It’s just a matter of starting a blog.
You might write about your experiences or those of people you know. Collecting photos or taking some snapshots yourself can add an important visual element. It might also be a great place to ask for users to share their stories.
The point is to create a reference for both those who experienced the event and those who may want to learn about it in the future. It’s also a natural fit for web designers – especially those who are avid bloggers.
Using Your Skills to Make a Difference
In a crisis situation, people from all different professions often come together to lend a hand. Web designers are no different.
Even if some of us aren’t able to rebuild a house, we certainly could create an online space where volunteers can sign up. And though we may not provide medical care, we can raise funds for those who need it.
In the end, it’s all about using the skills we have in a way that benefits others. The ideas above are just a start. By mining your own creativity, you may find even more ways to make a difference.